Report: U.S. to go for own sanctions on North Korea |

Report: U.S. to go for own sanctions on North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – The United States has told South Korea that it will impose its own financial sanctions on the North apart from punishments the U.N. has been mulling for Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test, a news report said today.

The U.S. sanctions call for blacklisting foreign financial institutions that help the North launder money and conduct other dubious deals, the South Korean Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg briefed the South Korean president on the new sanctions at a meeting Thursday, the mass-market paper said, citing an unidentified official at the presidential office. The U.S. Embassy in Seoul could not confirm the report.

Last week, Pyongyang conducted a barrage of missile launches and an underground nuclear test that violated previous U.N. Security Council sanctions. The North also appeared to be preparing for more missile tests, including one believed to be capable of reaching the U.S.

A similar U.S. measure imposed on a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau in 2005 effectively led to the North being severed from the international financial system, as other institutions voluntarily severed their dealings with the bank and the North.

That measure appeared to have hit the regime hard. News reports at the time said North Korean officials had to carry around bags of cash for financial transactions. Pyongyang stayed away from nuclear disarmament talks for more than a year in retaliation.

Steinberg was in Seoul from Tuesday through Thursday to coordinate a united response to Pyongyang’s belligerence. His interagency delegation included Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

Levey, who was in charge of the 2005 backlisting of the Macau bank, met with South Korean Vice Finance Minister Hur Kyung-wook and the two agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fight against money-laundering and counterfeiting, Hur’s office said.

Steinberg told South Korean President Lee Myung-bak that “North Korea would be mistaken if it thinks it can make provocations and then get what it wants through negotiation as it did in the past. The U.S. won’t repeat the same mistake again,” Seoul’s presidential office said in a statement.

The U.S. delegation left for China on Friday.

Complicating the situation, two American journalists were to go on trial Thursday in North Korea’s top court, on allegations they entered the country illegally and engaged in “hostile acts.”

North Korea’s official news agency said the trial would begin by mid-afternoon Thursday, but nearly one day later, there was no word on the status of the proceedings. A State Department spokesman said American officials had seen no independent confirmation that the case was under way.

Meanwhile in New York, ambassadors from key nations continued to try to reach an agreement Thursday on new U.N. sanctions against North Korea for defying the Security Council and conducting a second nuclear test. Closed-door meetings have been held since May 26.

Japan’s U.N. Ambassador Yukio Takasu told reporters: “We’re making our best possible effort … The issues are serious, require very careful examination at all angles. That’s why it is taking time.”

Once the ambassadors agree on the text of a draft resolution, it will be sent to their governments for approval. The draft resolution will then be circulated to other members of the 15-nation Security Council for consideration. A vote is highly unlikely until the middle of next week at the earliest.

Amid the heightened tensions, South Korea said a North Korean patrol boat entered its waters around their disputed maritime border Thursday but backed off after nearly an hour following repeated warnings. The area was the scene of deadly naval skirmishes in 1999 and 2002. The North has also conducted amphibious assault exercises near the sea boundary.

New commercial satellite images also showed the Dongchang-ni launch site on the North’s west coast was ready for use after nearly a decade of construction. The launch tower and what appears to be construction materials on the launch pad are seen in the images, Tim Brown, a senior fellow with, said. He speculated the debris may be there to make the pad appear as though it is still under construction.

“The launch pad appears to be operational,” Brown said.

Associated Press writers Kwang-tae Kim, William Foreman and Nicolai Hartvig in Seoul, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Pamela Hess in Washington contributed to this report.